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Terrible Typos

Hello, Erika here!

My friend Grace and I were talking about ideas for work the other night and she started laughing as she told me about some of the typos she had seen in emails and documents she had received. We joked about auto correct and the fact that there are sites solely dedicated to people’s “clumsy thumbsies“ as Ellen DeGeneres would say.

How many times have you accidentally texted someone something you didn’t mean to? I haven’t been involved in some of the incredibly embarrassing incidents above, but I have accidentally texted “I kiss you” instead of ‘I miss you.” I also told my sister once that “the dogs are dead” when I definitely meant, “the dogs are fed.” Typos happen, but how can you prevent them from making their way into your business?

I decided to share some common typos that frequently go unnoticed and include five fail-proof proofreading tricks—ways to make sure you don’t end up with a grammatical blunder on your hands.

If you work in public service then you are most likely already aware of the common missing “l” in many documents and emails, resulting in some “pubic” disasters. I have a friend that used to work for the New York Housing Authority and this was a commonly overlooked error in their office.

The simple misuse of your vs. you’re, or missing a comma can make a huge difference. If I say, “Let’s eat Julia,” it means something completely different than when I say, “Let’s eat, Julia.” People notice when grammatical errors are made. The other day at a meeting, I overheard a woman say, “Me and Kyle are planning…” and out of nowhere, the gentleman sitting next to me mumbles, “Kyle and I.”

My final example is not capitalizing when we should. When Time Magazine featured an article on Steve Jobs and Apple, they simply referred to him as “steve jobs.” A simple AP styling rule that I found myself rusty on was when to capitalize someone’s job title. When the title comes before the name, it is capitalized, but when it comes after their name, it is in lower case.

So how can you make sure you don’t make these simple grammatical errors? Here are my five tips.

  1. Read aloud
  2. Read backwards
  3. Take a break and re-read
  4. Use a second pair of eyes
  5. Always re-read before sending or posting

My friend Grace Zinnel and me in New York City

Grammar is complicated and AP guidelines are always changing because of the tools available to us. For example the term the Web now requires “web” to be capitalized because it encompasses and summarizes an entity, but a website is still lowercase because it is a smaller part of the Web.

I would recommend that you subscribe to the online AP Style Book or use the AP cheat sheet provided by Scribd. The cheat sheet isn’t as thorough as the complete style book, but it still provides the basics you need. If you really want to work on becoming an expert proofer you should subscribe to online mailing lists. Our proofing Queen, Dianne, swears by dailywritingtips.com and Grammar Girl, which both provide daily emails on various writing techniques, tools and tips.

When I first started at NMC, it had been a while since I had actually written in AP form. I had done it thousands of times in college, but working for different organizations with their own rules and ways of doing things had definitely formed some bad habits. I decided to get back to the basics and made it my mission to write better. I’m not perfect and Dianne can attest to my typos and grammatical errors, but using the right tools has helped me get better and now we joke that it’s only a matter of time before I get a document back without any red ink!

I hope that this week’s witty wisdom helps you, no matter what your skill level when it comes to writing and editing. After all, it never hurts to keep learning new skills and developing new good habits.

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